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Call to protect other stores as the Masters plan unravels


South Australia’s Hardware Association has called for State Government support to protect Woolworth’s smaller hardware franchises following the decision to drop Masters from its stable of businesses.

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The association, which represents 100 retailers and 50 suppliers around SA, said Woolworths was more than Masters and included 36 Home Timber and Hardware/Thrifty Link stores.

While most of the focus has been on the “big box” Masters business, Woolworths also announced it would sell Home Timber and Hardware.

South Australia’s hardware industry was valued at $2.5 billion and employed between 8000 and 9000 people, association president Paul Stewart said.

“They put valuable resources into the community particularly at a time when the South Australian economy is struggling,” he said.

Stewart said the association would offer any support to these stores and called on the State Government to develop a program that would see the small independent hardware stores survive and grow.

“HASA is willing to meet with the Government to develop a plan of support for these and other independent hardware stores,” Stewart said.

“Job losses from the closure of Master stores can in part be balanced by new growth of the small/medium independent hardware stores including those Home Timber and Hardware and Thrifty Link stores.”

Packaged as a great “blue” hope for the northern suburbs, Masters had originally announced a slew of new stores that promised to create “4500 jobs” for South Australia.

On April 23, 2014, key officials were at the site of the new Adelaide Airport store; the company director, State Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, neighbouring politicians and business interests.

Hard hats were worn, sods were turned and plans were looked at.

A year later the next sod was turned at Parafield Airport, again offering the hope of new jobs for an area that was suffering most from the demise of the state’s motoring manufacturing industry.

“Adelaide’s northern suburbs face significant challenges as we approach the closure of the auto-manufacturing sector,” Koutsantonis said at the opening in June last year.

“As part of our state tax review we have been looking at how we can remove barriers to business growth and job creation so we can see more private sector investment like today’s that create jobs for South Australians.”

Parafield was just four months away from its official opening when Woolworths stopped trying to stem the financial haemorrhaging at Masters and announced it would be would up or sold.

Adelaide Airport and Mount Gambier stores are currently operating. Woolies stated staff would continue to work while the transaction was completed.

Construction work at the Parafield business site, which includes one of two Masters stores under development, continues and has not been affected by Woolworth’s announcement.

Before the national withdrawal, Masters – Woolworths’ challenge to Wesfarmers’ Bunnings juggernaut – had announced 11 new stores for SA.

Touted by its own PR machine as Australia’s fastest growing hardware store, Masters unfurled plans in April 2014 to build the stores over six years that.

When complete, every store would house 100 workers.

Yesterday’s announcement by Woolies resulted in South Australia losing 1100 promised store positions and thousands more in construction.


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